We depend on large trucks to transport the goods we need and want throughout the nation, but when negligent truck drivers cause accidents, no one wins. Not only do crashes cause shipping delays, but motor vehicle drivers who share the road face the risk of serious injury or fatality. The average semi weighs a little more than 25,000 pounds empty, and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when loaded. This massive size and weight makes for severe crashes with incredible amounts of property damage, and drivers who don’t usually walk away when careless drivers have the protection of their large trucks.
Unfortunately, large truck crashes have been on the increase, putting even more motorists at risk. Although many situations might lead to a large truck accident, negligent truck drivers and trucking companies partake in dangerous practices which have led to this increase.
If you or a loved one have sustained injuries in an accident with a large truck, contact a national and powerful law firm who knows how to work with the large insurance policies, increased property damage, and severe injuries which accompany a large truck accident.
We Hold Truckers and Their Employers Accountable When They Try to Avoid Liability
Large truck accidents are among the most deadly and dangerous events on the road. Motor vehicle drivers involved who suffer harm as a result of truck driver or trucking company negligence can experience the same type of injuries as they would in any other traffic accident, but with increased severity. Some examples include:
- Broken and crushed bones and limbs, some of which might require amputation
- Dislocated joints
- Deep cuts which often leave scars
- Road rash when ejected from a vehicle
- Neck injuries such as whiplash and other soft tissue injuries
- Back injuries including herniated discs and cracked vertebrae
- Spinal cord injuries including those which cause partial or full paralysis temporarily or permanently
- Internal injuries including organ damage and hemorrhaging
When you are injured because of a truck accident, you expect the trucking company (or their insurance carrier) to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. Instead, trucking companies will go out of their way to avoid liability by devaluing your claim, downplaying your injuries, and even shifting the blame to you! Our firm knows the lengths trucking companies and their insurance companies will go to protect their bottom line. The following are some dangerous practices leading to increased numbers of large truck crashes, one or more of which might have led to your accident. When we make it difficult for trucking companies to blame the victim, you get the compensation you deserve.
DANGEROUS PRACTICE NUMBER ONE: Driving While Distracted
Truck drivers are held to higher standards on the road than the average driver, because they hold commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs), which means they should know better than to let distractions interfere with their driving. Yet, distracted driving remains one of the most common causes of large truck crashes. Unlike those in motor vehicles, many truckers aren’t distracted by their phones. In fact, it’s against federal law for a truck driver to use a cell phone while driving, unless using a hands-free feature.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) reports commercial drivers who text while operating a big rig are FOUR TIMES MORE LIKELY to crash than other drivers on the road.
Other distractions that plague truck drivers and contribute to the increasing number of truck crashes include eating and drinking while driving, making radio or GPS adjustments, reaching to grab items from the floor or passenger seat, watching events outside of the truck, and daydreaming. Any action which removes a trucker’s eyes, hands, or mind away from the road poses a threat to nearby vehicles. Drivers who cause an accident when they are distracted face harsh penalties including fines and potential license suspension. Repeat offenses might result in a trucker permanently losing his CDL.
DANGEROUS PRACTICE NUMBER TWO: Drowsy Driving
The National Transportation Safety Board reports between 30 and 40 percent of large truck accidents result from driver fatigue. This is most likely because staying awake for 18 or more hours has the same effect on a driver’s body as being legally intoxicated. Truckers have demanding schedules to make on-time pick-ups and deliveries, and many drive through the night. Drivers have legal limitations about the number of hours they can drive in a day and a week, but some don’t follow these rules, or in trucking industry language, “they run hot.” Today, it is a little harder for truckers to run hot because of a recent electronic logbook requirement. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) keep track of the driver activity when a truck is in operation.
Yet, ELDs might not have their intended effect. First, trucking companies must enforce ELD use and negligent companies might encourage drivers to use whatever workarounds they can to cheat the system and push harder when on the road. Of even more importance, FMSCA studies show the time of day a driver is operating affects alertness more than the number of hours driven. When you consider these things with the growing shortage of truck drivers, it creates the perfect storm for more large truck crashes.
DANGEROUS PRACTICE NUMBER THREE: Hiring Extremely Old Drivers With Significant Physical Disabilities
Baby boomers continue to retire, creating shortages for many industries, including the trucking industry. If you got an airplane and saw the pilot using a walker, with hearing aids, and thick glasses, you would probably run the other way! Yet in most cases, truckers can drive as long as they wish. The aviation industry, for example, requires pilots to retire at age 65, even when facing a shortage. The trucking industry, however, has taken the opposite stance. In response to a growing shortage of truck drivers, trucking companies are recruiting drivers in their 7th and 8th decades with significant physical issues and limitations.
At some age, which can vary based on individuals, a person’s general sharpness decreases, but the trucking industry has not implemented any upper age limit laws. Driving a semi truck requires manual dexterity, impeccable vision, and the ability to quickly respond to hazards and dangerous on the road. Extremely elderly truckers who continue to drive when their skills have significantly deteriorated put other motorists at risk for accident and injury, contributing to the recent increase in large truck crashes.
DANGEROUS PRACTICE NUMBER FOUR: Hiring Young Drivers
Hiring young, inexperienced drivers has led to an increase in large truck crashes as much as hiring older drivers. Young drivers are another solution for trucking companies dealing with a driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the trucking industry will need more than 175,000 by 2026 based on the current trajectory. When trucking companies cannot attract retired drivers, or are unwilling to pay a higher wage, they hire young drivers with little experience.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates driving a large truck for a living is about eight times more deadly than being a law enforcement officer. Drivers must be 21 to obtain a commercial driver license (CDL), so they can drive a large truck, but training is not standardized across industries. Large trucking companies with a lot of capital have the resources to send a driver to ‘trucker school’ or operate their own training programs, and entice young drivers to work for them with sign-on bonuses. Smaller companies typically have limited training for new drivers. New semi drivers on the road who have recently obtained their CDL can have anywhere from four to eight weeks of behind-the-wheel training. Regardless of length, the knowledge and skills learned in a training program does not substitute for experience.
DANGEROUS PRACTICE NUMBER FIVE: Unsafe Parking
Have you been driving at night and noticed semi-trucks parked on exit or entrance ramps to the interstate, and thought to yourself, “Why aren’t these trucks at a truck stop or rest area?” Lanes of parked trucks on exit ramps or the side of the road can be dangerous. In inclement weather, they also pose a hazard for other drivers who might not see them, when visibility is already difficult at night. Parking shortages for trucks are common in some parts of the country, and the federal mandate for electronic logging devices (ELDs) has made this dangerous situation worse.
Once truckers reach their daily hours of service limit, they must find a place to rest. Many semis have sleepers, so drivers find a truck stop, park their truck, and sleep. In the past, when a trucker could not find a parking spot, he would drive to the next exit or rest area to find parking. With a parking shortage and mandated use of an ELD, drivers who have used their hours don’t legally have the time to drive further to find a parking spot, causing them to park in hazardous locations and creating the opportunity for more large truck crashes. If drivers keep operating to find a parking spot they are driving illegally, and likely fatigued from a long day, creating more danger.
DANGEROUS PRACTICE NUMBER SIX: Bad Health Habits
Medical conditions and emergencies can lead to severe accidents resulting in injury or fatality. The U.S. has a growing obesity problem, which is magnified in the trucking industry. Truckers are two times more likely to be obese than other employees. This is most likely a result of the demanding schedule and long hours sitting in a big rig. Very few semi drivers have the opportunity to cook their own healthy meals with lean protein and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight. Instead, most are at the mercy of fast food and convenience food. In some cases, a driver might be able to find a healthy meal at a restaurant at a truck stop. Overall, truckers need to make a special effort to eat healthy foods and get enough sleep.
Obesity coupled with the stress of the job puts truckers at risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other serious conditions. It especially contributes to sleep apnea, a condition which causes people to quit breathing while they sleep. Poor health habits and sleep issues contribute to driver fatigue, making them especially dangerous. Drivers are required to have physical with the Department of Transportation (DOT) each year, so some conditions might be mitigated. Unfortunately, these conditions can lead to a large truck crash before a driver has a physical or visits a physician in regards to symptoms.
The risk of Type II (Adult Onset) diabetes is another condition which impacts the health of truckers. Untreated diabetes causes symptoms which poses incredible amounts of risk to other drivers on the road. In addition to fatigue, diabetes causes blurred vision and slurred speech. Low blood sugar can cause seizures or loss of consciousness, leading to severe crashes. Trucking companies might try to argue you contributed to the accident, but not treating major health issues is negligent when it leads to an accident.
Learn More About Finding an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
A skilled legal team knows the defense strategies and tactics that truckers, their employers, and their insurance carriers will use to avoid liability. If you were injured in a trucking accident, you need an advocate who can aggressively pursue justice, so you get the compensation you deserve. Several behaviors have led to an increase in large truck crashes in recent years. A good attorney knows what they are. We hope this post can help you support your case in the wake of your accident.
Remember, if you’ve been injured by a truck driver or a trucking company, the law is on your side. An attorney can help ensure you need not recover from your injuries alone, and help set you back on the path to a normal life.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.